slow literature

About Susitna Mountain / Shushidnu Egh Dghili

A Dena’ina Story by Peter Kalifornsky

In this story, it is said that a Dreamer dreamed of the Mountain People.

The Dreamer said, “They were Giants of a people.” They were gathered together by Shushidnu. Of themselves they said, “We are Nat’utna, we are people who are other-than-human. We are the Mountain People.”

And then the Lady said, “I will lie here. I love this place.” She was Shushidnu, the Lady who loved that place, and she looks like a lady sleeping. “And there will be be a river that I love beside me.” That is the Susitna River.

One Person said, “I will lie there on the far side, with my feet stretching into the water.” And he said, “I will be T’usi.” He was a windbreak, a fence: Slope Mountain.

A Lady said, “I will lie beside him in the same way, with my feet in the water.” She said, “I will be little T’usi.” She is Chisik Island.

And a Person said, “I will be up above, a great mountain.” He is Dghilika’a, Mt. Redoubt. And he said, “My relatives will be around me.” These are the smaller mountains, Shchnaqał’in, There Will Be More of the True Ones Like Me at My Feet.

And One said, “I will be north, far inland with my relatives.” He is Yuneq’di, called Denali, inland with his smaller relatives.

The Lady Shushidnu directed them. “These other People will go across the water,” she said. They answered her, explaining that they would be Yaghenen, the Good Land. That is the Kenai Peninsula.

And then she said, laying out the passes between the mountains, “They are nakatl’a, like the tail hanging between an animal’s haunches.” Those locations that look that way are glaciers. She said, “Sometimes it will be dangerous going through those passes.”

According to the story, she also said, “The people will love that place and it will be useful to them; but they will pass away.”

These Mountain People were doing this for us, so that we would have names for every location, describing how they look. And the Dreamer explained, “The Mouse Story happened inside a mountain. And then, in the Gambling Story, when the believer went to that unknown place, he found the same kind of location, inside the mountain. The Lady who called herself the Mother of Everything Over and Over and her husband, called K’luyesh, were Giants of people. And the person who saw the little village in the foothills found the k’kin’i, the little folk, and they called themselves Mountain People. Now you see how these stories relate to one another.”

tr. by Peter Kalifornsky and Katherine McNamara

The Mountain People, Part 1